In the words of Dr. Missy Misdemeanor Elliot, "Music makes me lose control." But songs influence more than involuntary dance movements. According to various studies, music has a laundry list of emotional and therapeutic effects. However, out of all the power music holds, its ability to bring folks together is probably its greatest asset — just ask Afro Nation co-founder SMADE.
Born Adesegun Adeosun Jr., SMADE is one of the creators responsible for the new music festival that is attracting thousands of Black folks and music lovers from around the globe. Afro Nation combines the beach, the sun, African music and hit songs from across the diaspora into a multiday concert that features top international artists. While many might find the festival a massive turn-up event, for SMADE it's more a cultural celebration that stems from his desire to promote African heritage.
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"I've always wanted to showcase and promote the culture through music," SMADE told Blavity.
He eventually got that opportunity, when he moved from Nigeria to the UK in 2004 at 19 years old. Laughing at the irony of his current predicament, SMADE explained that growing up in Nigeria he was never allowed to attend clubs or large parties. However, after moving to the UK SMADE said he had his first nightclub experience with some friends, which sparked an interest that led him to become a club promoter before he really knew what a club promoter was.
"I was known to throw [house parties], and it got so big that one day the police came and said, 'You're always throwing parties. Your neighbors are always complaining. Why don't you take it to a club?'" SMADE shared.Thus we can thank the police and their universal ability to interrupt lit Black gatherings for SMADE's progression in the nightlife scene.
When SMADE approached his first club, he said he proposed an afrobeats night — before the genre had a more universal appeal. The club owner was hesitant, despite the large population of Africans and folks of African descent in the UK. Nonetheless, SMADE said he convinced the owner and managed to pack the club on his first night. After that event, he was offered a weekly spot to bring African music lovers together.
During this same time, SMADE was attending University of the Arts London, and became the go-to party guy. He ultimately graduated with his marketing and advertising degree in 2007 and turned his senior project, SMADE Entertainment, into his side business. Seeking out as much knowledge as he could, SMADE followed up his first degree with an MBA in marketing.
SMADE Entertainment gradually expanded from club promotions to concerts. Working with artists from all over the diaspora, SMADE has hosted some of the biggest names including Davido, Yemi Alade, Teni the Entertainer, Buju Banton, Tiwa Savage, Jidenna and more. The young African entertainment maven said he used his personal funds from retail, nightlife and agency jobs to expand his business. Hence, he chose the moniker SMADE, which comes from the phrase "self-made."
It's safe to say, SMADE also helped to make afrobeats a more popular genre. As an earlier part of the "afrobeats to the world" movement, SMADE shared how he threw concerts both inside and outside of London, spreading the afrobeats appeal throughout neighboring cities. Now, afrobeats has made its way to the U.S., with artists like Afro B and Davido topping U.S. Billboard charts. With the genre's popularity growing in the States, the Afro Nation festival is heading to this side of the ocean too.
In becoming a mega live entertainment brand, SMADE teamed up with his Afro Nation partner Obi Asika to conceptualize the first Afro Nation festival, which took place on a beach in Portimão, Portugal, in August 2019. Tickets reportedly sold out in 24 hours and brought more than 20,000 people from across the diaspora together.
Not wasting any time, the pair have announced two follow up festivals: A December festival in Ghana, and a March four-day event in Puerto Rico. With "King of the Dancehall" Beenie Man and reggae artist Chronixx on the Afro Nation Puerto Rico headline roster, the performance bill appears to have a healthy balance of Caribbean music to inaugurate the festival in the Americas.
Still, afrobeats is key when it comes to Afro Nation, and since music is arguably the pulse of our culture, SMADE has taken on a commendable mission to make African music the center of a gathering that unites what has so long been separated. Most importantly, he's aware of the importance the musical movement holds. It is more than a turn up, it's a reunion.
"The most important thing is the culture. Music is the biggest hope we have as Africans," SMADE said. "It's what brings people together."